Obituary of John W. P. Laird
May 28, 1844 - July 29, 1911
Life's Work Ends for John Laird
Kern County Jurist Fatally Stricken in Berkeley
IN FAILING HEALTH FOR SEVERAL MONTHS
Lived Sixty Years in California, Crossing Plains in 1851 A
Served Term as Assemblyman; Prominent in Kern County Democracy
Bakersfield Morning Echo, July 30, 1911, Page 6
Hon. JOHN W. P. LAIRD, former assemblyman, twice district attorney of Inyo
county and the same in Kern County, a pioneer of the early California days and
one of Bakersfield's best known citizens, expired suddenly yesterday afternoon
while walking on the sidewalk a short distance from the residence of his
stepdaughter, Mrs. A. K. Miller at 1710 Francisco Street, Berkeley.
Though in poor health for the past six months, it was not until recently that
Judge Laird failed rapidly, and when he returned from a three months' mountain
sojourn near Weldon on Monday last, he was but a wreck of his former self, and
it was felt the end was near. On Tuesday night he left for Berkeley and was
constantly under the physician's care but his splendid physique was gone.
Heart Trouble the Cause
He suffered from stomach trouble, which superinduced heart trouble, and the
latter was primarily the cause of his demise. John Laird was 67 years old May
28th last, celebrating his birthday here only a few days before he left for the
mountains with Mrs. Laird.
Leaves Widow and Three Sons
Besides his widow, he is survived by three sons, all of Bakersfield, and four
step-daughters. Ernest Laird, the eldest son, is court reporter here. Lester
Laird is a well-known resident of the county and Rollin Laird is city attorney.
The latter left last evening on the Santa Fe for Berkeley to arrange for
bringing the body to this city for interment. Funeral arrangements here will be
made today by Ernest Laird and the services will be held Monday afternoon or
The stepchildren are Mrs. A. K. Miller of Berkeley, Mrs. Ralph Knight of
Stockton, Mrs. Oscar Reynolds of Helena, Mont., and Mrs. Ralph Toland of
News of the sudden passing of the well-known pioneer and jurist reached
Bakersfield shortly after 2 PM, Rollin Laird receiving the sad news in a brief
message from Mrs. Laird.
Stood High in Bakersfield
The word spread rapidly and there was universal sorrow here, Judge Laird having
a wide circle of friends throughout the county, and was well liked by all. None
knew him but to admire him, and there is not one to say Judge Laird wasn't a
true typical American, a representative of the great common people, either in
public office - and he was freely honored by this commonwealth - or in private
life. His career in Bakersfield was of 20 years duration. It was one profoundly
felt in the upbuilding of the community, and Judge Laird was a leading member of
the bar shone with the most brilliant who ever practiced law in the broad San
Obituary of John WP Laird, cont.
Less than a year ago Judge Laird was a member of the committee on resolutions
for the late Judge Ben Brundage, another pioneer of early California days whose
career in legal matters was long and brilliant.
Spent Early Life on Plains
The story of Laird's life reads well. It is that of a man who spent his long
life in the upbuilding of California. Born in Mount Carroll, Carroll Count,
Illinois, on May 28, 1844, at the age of 7A years young Laird started across the
plains with his parents, the trip being made in the old-fashioned prairie
schooner over the old emigrant trail with the boy Laird frequently herding the
cattle en route, his place being in the saddle beside his father, Peter Laird, a
well-known pioneer who died in January 1910, at the ripe age of 89 years.
Mother Killed by Mine Blast
The Laird family located in El Dorado County, then the scene of the gold
excitement, and in 1854B while lying in a hammock near the Mokelumne mines, Mrs.
Laird was killed by a flying rock when one of the powder charges was exploded.
The Lairds lived at the old mining camps of Diamond Springs and Shingle Springs,
and about 1858 or 1859 moved to Sacramento County where they engaged in stock
raising and resided there until the latter part of the 60's when they removed to
Starts Legal Career in Inyo
During the life on the ranch raising cattle, young Laird studied law, having
procured his law books from an old-time attorney in Sacramento. He read law by
the campfire and thus by dint of hard work, both manual and mental fitted
himself for his later career as attorney. However, he did not take up the
practice of law immediately on arriving in Inyo County, but continued to assist
his father at cattle raising until he was past 30 years of age, when he resolved
on a legal career, and in 1879, soon after being admitted to practice before the
California Supreme Court, he was elected district attorney of Inyo County and
served until 1886. Mr. Laird enjoyed a prosperous career before the Inyo County
bar and also found time to fill the position of register of the Independence
land office during the first Cleveland administration.
First in Kern in 1890
His first appearance as an attorney in Kern County was 1890, when he came to
Bakersfield as special prosecutor in the trial of W. T. C. Elliott for murder,
the case resulting in a mistrial and Elliott was never acquitted or found
guilty. Mr. Laird was so well pleased with Bakersfield that he concluded to make
his home here, and arrived in May 1891, to engage in the practice of law in
partnership with Jackson W. Mahon, then a young attorney just rising to fame,
now superior Judge of Kern County. His family came in July 1891. For three years
this well-known firm existed, and when it was broken up by the election of Mahon
as superior judge, Mr. Laird formed a business partnership with the late H. L.
Packard that existed for many years.
District Attorney Two Terms
In 1903 Mr. laird was appointed district attorney, succeeding the late J. W.
Ahern, and was re-elected in 1906. He filled the district attorneyship with
marked ability and was always regarded as a fearless champion of the people's
cause and was an able prosecutor.
Obituary of John WP Laird, cont.
Candidate for Senator
Last fall he was nominated without opposition by the Democrats as state senator
from the Thirty-Second district, comprising Kings, Kern and Tulare counties. At
the election he met defeat owing to a tremendous Republican wave in Kings and
Tulare counties, but Laird carried Kern County by a large vote.
Judge Laird was prominent in county politics for many years. He was a prominent
leader of the Kern county Democracy and his influence was widely felt in the
part councils. In 1900 Mr. Laird was elected assemblyman and served as a member
of the Pardee investigating committee during the Chinatown scandal in San
Francisco, taking a prominent part in the investigation.
Judge Laird was twice married, his first marriage being in 1872 in Inyo County,
his first wife dying in 1900.
He was a member of Inyo lodge F. and A. M. of Independence, having held
membership there for many years. Last evening Porter Munsey representing
Bakersfield lodge, No. 224, sent notice of Mr. Laird's death to Independence.
The funeral will be conducted with the Masons in charge. He was a member of
Bakersfield lodge, No. 266, BPOE and the Eagles, Bakersfield area, No. 93.
A. Page 2: This should be 8. The family left for California after John's eighth
birthday. Peter, Julia and their two sons went to California in late June or
July of 1852 and arrived in California by the end of November, 1852.
B. Page 2: This date should be 1857. The transcription letters show that she
died in the Spring of 1857. A letter written March 15, 1857 from Eliza Pierce to
Julia Adaline (Lindsay) Laird confirms that Julia was still alive in March of